Four Ph.D. graduates from the School of Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) will begin tenure-track careers at various universities across the globe in 2020. They are:
- Shang-Tse Chen - National Taiwan University
- Bo Dai – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Minsuk Kahng- Oregon State University
- Elias Khalil – University of Toronto
“This is an impressive number of students from one semester to become tenure-track professors, especially from a department the size of CSE!” said CSE Associate Professor Polo Chau, advisor and professor of two of the four students.
With students increasingly choosing to pursue careers in industry, Chau’s excitement is echoed by others across academia whenever a substantial number of students not only choose to pursue careers in academia, but are also awarded these highly sought-after positions.
Chau continued, “I’m extremely proud of our CSE students’ research excellence and innovations! I am thrilled that they will be sharing their expertise and mentoring the next generation of top researchers at these wonderful universities. I can’t wait to learn about all the achievements from their careers!”
Recent CSE graduate Shang-Tse Chen will begin as an assistant professor at National Taiwan University in 2020. Chen’s research focuses on machine learning and security, and some of his most recognizable work includes ShapeShifter and SHIELD, the latter of which won the KDD 2018 Audience Appreciation Award, Runner-Up. Chen was also awarded the IBM PH.D. Fellowship in 2018 for his Ph.D. thesis research.
Now, Chen says, “I want to pursue a career in academia because I love doing research and being in academia gives me more freedom to work on whatever random ideas that I come up with. I also love working with students. I think it's a very rewarding experience.”
His main piece of advice to those interested in pursuing careers in academia is to make more connections by talking to people at conferences. He also encourages students to figure out if they want to go to industry or academia as early as possible.
“If you prefer to stay in academia, your advisor can give you more guidance in that direction, such as inviting you to the grant writing process or course preparation,” he said.
Bo Dai, a former student of CSE Professor Le Song, will join the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Spring 2020. His research focuses on machine learning with topics including optimization, reinforcement learning, deep learning, kernel methods, and graphical models.
Dai is currently working as a research scientist at Google Brain, Mountain View where he focuses on designing principled machine learning methods for structured data.
Dai has had numerous works presented at leading deep learning and artificial intelligence conferences, the most recent of which include work on kernels at AISTATS 2019 and Bayesian deep learning at NeurIPS 2018.
Recently graduated CSE Ph.D. student Minsuk Kahng will begin teaching at Oregon State University in 2020. As a faculty member, Kahng hopes to create and build his research group in a flexible working environment and conduct fundamental research that can make long-term impacts.
Kahng followed his advisor, CSE Associate Professor Polo Chau, in pursuing research in the areas of human-centered artificial intelligence and data visualization. Kahng was recognized on multiple occasions for his research in these fields such as his work with GAN Lab and with awards such as the 2018 Google Fellowship.
“It wasn't possible without Polo, my Ph.D. advisor. I'm very grateful for his continued support, guidance, advice, and much more,” he said.
Kahng’s advice for those who want to continue in academia is for students to develop their research agenda.
“Ideally, it would be desirable to find an important research problem that can potentially make high impact and become an expert in that field,” he said. “For me, during my early Ph.D. years, I realized that it would be crucial for humans to have the ability to explain the behavior of machine learning models, and I have pursued this line of research.”
Elias Khalil is a recent CSE graduate with a focus on discrete optimization, machine learning, integer programming, and artificial intelligence research. At CSE, Elias received the 2017 IBM PhD Fellowship for his work on machine learning approaches for algorithm design. He is currently working at Polytechnique Montréal as an IVADO Postdoctoral Scholar until June 2020. After his time in Montreal, Khalil is set to join the University of Toronto as an assistant professor of industrial engineering starting July 2020.
“I believe that researchers in both academia and industry can have a positive scientific and social impact through their work,” he said.
“I chose academia because of the substantial freedom in exploring the frontiers of computer science and engineering. Additionally, I am interested in applying the computational techniques that my lab will develop to pressing societal problems such as climate change.”
On the educational side, Khalil expresses his excitement for advising students from diverse backgrounds and seeing them develop new ideas to tackle problems they are passionate about.
He said, “Perhaps the biggest difference with industry is the ability to teach and create undergraduate and graduate courses. I look forward to introducing students to artificial intelligence, machine learning, optimization and computational problem-solving as it applies toreal problems.”